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Standing up for small companies

Philip McKay explains the work of SISO’s Small Business Members Special Interest Group.


SISO (Society of Independent Show Organisers) has been the meeting place for CEOs and leaders in the for-profit sector of tradeshow organisers for the past 29 years.

The majority of these leaders are from companies with under US$10m in annual revenue. While many in our industry look to the larger companies for direction and opportunities for growth, SISO’s board has appreciated the necessity for small business leaders to have their own forum. The SISO Small Business Roundtable (SBR) was created to meet this need. 

Now in its fifth year, the SBR forum continues to be the essential opportunity for small business leaders to have the opportunity for open discussions, sharing innovative ideas, successes and failures as it relates to their experience in the event industry. The event commences immediately before the opening of the SISO CEO Summit. 

The format of this forum is very different from the typical conference. There are no speakers, no PowerPoint presentation or sponsors. The meeting space is set up in a boardroom style setting, so there is a clear view of each member and all voices are equal. This is reminiscent of the format of SISO’s meetings in the beginning, providing an atmosphere of collaboration and support to address navigating the minefields in the event world.

This year’s discussions at the CEO Summit focused on some major issues that plague all small businesses:

• HR, top issues for talent and teams;

• What new models and technologies enable growth and reach into our communities;

• What challenges 2019 brings to a small business owner;

• How do we compete with the giants of our industry;

• When is the best time to look at exiting.




Each of these topics could have easily taken up an entire day. The discussions were lively and quite candid. Sharing of actual strategies used in sales, marketing, operations, managing personnel-particularly sales staff were relevant and impactful. Each of the 50 executives in attendance provided input on one or more discussion points.

The overall impression was that the group wants more of these types of discussions. SISO’s board added another SBR at the Summer SISO Leadership Conference in Detroit, 13-15 August. This, too, was a very popular session for executives who either own or run event companies under $10m.  There were lively discussions around technology, the economy, motivating employees and much more. All of the discussion points were submitted by the participants of the SBR. 

All participants agreed that the SBR forum is one of the highlights of the both SISO CEO Summit and Leadership Conference for the small business leader. 

We focus on real time issues and we promote helping each other to find solutions. I was impressed with the openness of the entire group in sharing their successes and their failures, with no hesitation. I look forward to our continuing the conversations through our 24/7/365 chat rooms that are currently being developed. 

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